Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dining Out

For the most part, a fine restaurant on the island is an oxymoron. We have a few places that serve up exceptional meals that one would find in Europe or the U.S., but, for the most part the meals served on the island in the majority of the restaurants (and there are very few here) are the standard Honduran dish which has, at minimum, two starches, a salad (most of the time cole slaw), plantains and chicken or fish. The Islanders tend to overcook their fish and chicken so it is really special when one finds a place that serves a good chicken dish done to perfection.

I have spoken in the past about Manati and Clearwater Paradise as being exceptional restaurants. The price, depending upon what you want for an entrée goes from Lps. 150 to Lps. 400 (approximately $8 to 21.00) per person. On the high end (at Clearwater Paradise) one gets a deluxe 7-course meal with your choice of entrée and is an exceptionally high-quality meal. In the “average” price range one can get, depending upon the restaurant, chicken, fish or beef fixed in a variety of ways. The normal Honduran fare is fried chicken. The best fried chicken we have found is at Bo’s Island House where his wife, Martha and/or her Mother, Maria, understand that overcooking is not necessary! They serve up a wonderful chicken or fish with salad, rice and plantains for a minimal cost. Manati serves chicken cordon blu, schnitzel, garlic fish, stuffed chicken (a wonderful specialty), German sausages and, on occasion, a beautiful filet which is cooked to perfection. The prices at both places are reasonable.

When we hear of a new restaurant we are anxious to try it but also wait to hear what other people‘s experiences are. Almost two years ago an islander, Daniel Ebanks, opened a restaurant, Shade Tree, out of his mother’s house near Mangrove Bight. Daniel had worked for a short time on Clark Cay as their cook, at one of the other dive resorts, did private cooking in people’s homes for parties and, in general, is an exceptional cook. I have tried Daniel’s dishes at Clark Cay and always encouraged him to continue with his craft stating that maybe some day he could open a restaurant. We had heard some good things about his place and decided we would like, one day, to go there.

We recently were invited to celebrate Ginger’s birthday with free drinks at their resort (Clearwater Paradise) and a meal at Daniel’s. George generally holds a birthday party for Ginger cooking wonderful meals at no cost and offering free drinks for the celebration. This year, however, George has been working for 3 weeks on his dive boat which suddenly started falling apart (more on that in another blog). He had to re-fiberglass the entire bottom of the boat and will also have to do the whole inside. After 3 weeks of working with fiberglass, he really did not have the time to whip together a meal or plan a proper party and decided that they would try out Daniel’s restaurant.

We had not made the trek to Daniel’s restaurant because of the distance to go to get to Mangrove Bight. One must phone ahead a day or two in advance so he knows what to prepare. He does not have a set menu, from what I understand, and since he never knows when people will show up, he prefers them to call ahead. This is fine with us except that sometimes one will call ahead and then on the appointed date weather will be inclement and passage to the other side impossible. We had heard from a couple of people that Daniel’s food was of excellent quality and his specialty, fruit smoothies, were worth the visit. No alcohol is served at Daniel’s restaurant so he came up with wonderful smoothies to satisfy one’s thirst.

Daniel’s place is located a little ways up from Mangrove Bight and for those of strong constitution, it is quite a hike to get there. We later discovered that one could hire a taxi to take you to Shade Tree! Anyway, our small party got to the Hilti dock in Mangrove Bight, strolled UP the steep ramp to the highway, turned right and then proceeded up some steep stairs on the left side of the road to the crest of a hill. We trekked further on, walked down a small, steep ramp, continued on a road, down another hill and finally came to the road leading to Daniel’s Mother’s house, which was more walking downhill. It was hot with hardly a breeze and we were tired and thirsty. Daniel serves his guests outside on tables under beautiful palms and a huge Ceiba tree. The yard is beautifully taken care of and makes a pleasant place where one can enjoy the view and their meal.

Unfortunately, Belco was not supplying electricity at that hour and, therefore, we could not sample Daniel’s smoothies. He did offer us ice tea, fruit punch or the local hog plum juice. We found a table and were served our drinks. Our reservation was for 2:00 p.m. and we noticed that on this particular day there were several people gathered at various tables for what we were to learn would be a buffet meal. About 15 people were present while we were there for the buffet.

Buffet meals can be tricky and, normally, they are reasonably priced considering that the entré will be something that can be cooked in large batches and kept reasonably warm. We were told that there was conch and small dumplings, chicken with barbeque sauce, a lettuce salad with vegetables, potato salad and rice. We had all expected an individually-made meal and were a little disappointed but agreeable with the offering. We were not, however, in agreement with the stiff price for this buffet. He was charging Lps. 320.00 ($17.00) which we all felt was quite steep considering what was being offered. But, we were there and we were hungry.

The ambience of Shade Tree was lovely, the fact that they had their pet dog caged up near the dining tables barking the whole time detracted from the peacefulness of the meal. Daniel was working very hard and it was quite a feat to prepare this whole meal for a small crowd. Maybe this is why we did not get served until 3:30 p.m.. However, his serving help was inexperienced. I think the girl must have been in training as she was slow and did not seem to comprehend just what she was to do. She could only carry one plate at a time and brought individual dishes to us without a knife or fork. I finally got up and went over to get the utensils I saw laying on a table wrapped in a single, thin, paper napkin. To my surprise all that we got was a flimsy plastic fork wrapped in a thin paper napkin; no knife at all nor any extra napkins. We were never approached and asked if we wanted another drink until the meal was almost over. The chicken was cooked to perfection and the conch was interesting fare. The lettuce salad had a little more in it than most served on the island, the potato salad was average and what can one say about rice? No bread or rolls were offered. All in all, it certainly was not a meal that one would pay $17 for on the island; even on the Coast, this price was a little out of reason.

George asked Daniel if he had any champagne glasses as it was Ginger’s birthday (he had told Daniel this before when arranging the party and that he was bringing champagne). Daniel was able to produce 2 glasses; there were 6 of us. The rest of the group drank the refreshments out of plastic cups. The meal, fortunately, was served on a ceramic plate and we were puzzled as to why he would not offer good metal utensils, especially a knife, with the meal.

Desert was announced and there was the typical flan, a fruit salad, a fruit cocktail cake and something Daniel christened a Guanaja Mud Cake which was simply a boxed chocolate cake with bits of peanut butter in it. To our surprise, with the desert we received a metal fork.

We finished our meal and were paying our individual bills. George was talking to people and so did not pay Daniel directly. There was a girl sitting at the gate when we came in who, evidentially, was to collect money from individual’s when they walked in for the buffet. George approached her to pay the Lps. 640.00 for himself and Ginger and when he asked how much the meal was she said Lps. 700.00! George turned and got Daniel and explained that the girl was asking Lps. 60 more than she should have. Daniel apologized and said the girl must be trying to take money for herself. George paid Daniel and noticed that Daniel did not even bother to go to the girl and reprimand her.

So, all in all, I cannot recommend that one go to Daniel’s for a meal unless he is making an individual meal for each person. The food was good, but not worth Lps. 320.00 per person. The fact that he did not use proper utensils nor even have cloth napkins or any extra napkins for people nor glass glasses certainly did not give the restaurant a feel of a “professional” establishment. The distraction of a constantly barking dog did nothing to relax anyone and having to get one’s own utensil because the waitress did not seem to know what was required of her was a shame. To top it off, the girl at the gate trying to rip the customers off did not sit well with our group and we wondered if we were the only ones being charged Lps. 320.00 as, for the most part, islanders will not pay that kind of money for what was offered, which was nothing more than normal island fare. We, as customers should have been advised when we called ahead, that a taxi could bring us to the restaurant rather than making the long, difficult walk in the heat, but that was not done. Even when leaving, some of our party took a taxi out but had to wait 20 minutes for the driver to talk to people and eat his meal!

All in all it was an average island establishment with minimal service and an overpriced meal. Quite possibly Daniel’s individual meals may be better, but we will not go back to find out.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fact of Life

I tend to stay away from reporting the really bad stuff that happens on the island. For one thing, bad things can happen anywhere in the world and usually do. So, when someone hears of the same things happening on a small island it can spell disaster for its economy in so many ways.

Yes, we have little law enforcement here but, in general, there is not a lot of big crime. I mean, getting off a small island when the only transportation is a boat or plane makes it a little difficult. It has been done, but happily I can report that there are times when the people committing more than petty theft are caught, even white attempting to leave the island.

Of course the major crime here is the thieving of boats and engines, especially engines under 25 HP which can be easily carried off. Homes are occasionally broken into but, generally, the thieves here do this when the owner is away and no one is watching the premises. People trespass on other people's property to steal their mangoes, bananas, avocados, etc. and to hunt iguanas and watoosies (and, yes, I'm guessing at the spelling), a type of rabbit-like creature.

We have had two bank robberies in my 14 years where, which occurred more recently and since then security guards are present at the bank in town and seem to have deterred that activity. There have been a few people killed on the island and that is another area entirely. Most of the time a crime is committed by someone who has been drinking too much and gets in fight with another individual, in-family squabbles or now, unfortunately, drug related crimes.

And this brings me to my topic. Crime is every where, a fact of life. We are not unusual except for the fact that on an isolated island law enforcement is difficult at best.

Recently, another blogger sent out, via an e-mail a copy of a cable from or to, I could not verify which, possibly addressed to or from: DEPT. FOR INL/LP, DRL/PHD, AND WHA/CEN. This was one of the documents released in Wekileaks. It appears to have been prepared in 2003 and reads as follows:


¶1. (U) SUMMARY: The Honduran Bay Islands of Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja are well known narcotrafficking transit points and home to countless other illicit activities. Due to the large tourism industry on Roatan and Utila, the GOH has chosen to focus its limited counternarcotics resources primarily on these two islands. Guanaja, however, has not received the much needed resources to combat its ever-growing narcotics problem. The least developed of the Bay Islands, Guanaja's limited infrastructure and services have served to be a deterrent to tourism. Additionally, unemployment is widespread, creating a safe haven on Guanaja for narcotraffickers and organized crime families. Drug abuse among the 6,000 islanders has greatly increased and all indications suggest that this trend will continue.

¶2. (U) The Honduran Bay Islands of Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja are well known narcotrafficking transit points and home to countless other illicit activities. Roughly 85 percent of Guanaja's adult population uses crack, cocaine, or marijuana according to a recent El Heraldo newspaper report. Casual drug use can be observed openly in public, and even children as young as 8 years old are known to be regular drug users. The widespread usage of illegal substances may be due to the high unemployment rate on the island. Tourism also remains depressed and the fishing industry is not at a sustainable level for many families to subsist on. Thus, some people have found employment with the narcotraffickers and are often paid in the form of drugs rather than cash, creating a cycle of drug abuse.

¶3. (U) Honduras is not usually the ultimate destination for narcotrafficking transactions, but rather a transit point. Much of the product that transits through Guanaja originates in South America and is destined for the Cayman Islands and the United States. The most common means of transportation in the area of Guanaja is maritime, although planes are also used. Drug runners use 200 horsepower boats that easily surpass the 100 horsepower boats used by the Honduran police and Navy. It is common for abandoned packages and boats to be found near Guanaja when the traffickers are alerted of the presence of authorities. This in turn makes prosecution highly difficult and unlikely.

¶4. (U) The narcotraffickers are protected by the inhabitants of Guanaja through methods of terror and assault. Also, the under supported police authorities of the island do not have the manpower to patrol, capture, and prosecute known traffickers. According to the Director of National Police, Coralia Rivera, the effectiveness of the police force is minimized because they need boats, planes, and helicopters to enforce narcotrafficking laws, and these resources are just not available.

¶5. (SBU) COMMENT: In a recent letter to the Ambassador, the Mayor of Guanaja pleaded for some form of direct U.S. counternarcotics assistance to combat the presence of drug traffickers. There are recent reports that a fed-up local population, acting in a vigilante-style campaign, attacked and destroyed the house of a well known drug trafficker. Until more resources become available to law enforcement agencies in Guanaja, the island will remain very vulnerable to the corruption of crime bosses and influential narcotraffickers. Furthermore, much of its population will continue to support such activities both through the use of narcotics and the protection they provide to the traffickers. This problem is not just that of a small island of 6,000 inhabitants, but indicative of the larger problem Honduras faces as more and more of its territory is compromised by the drug trade. Post believes that additional USG counternarcotics resources should be directed at areas like Guanaja in order to fight the larger war on drugs.

For the most part this report is true and is a hard, disturbing fact concerning the Bay Islands. Guanaja was the main target in this article because 1) it is not the popular tourist spot that Roatan is, 2) it has no roads and little infrastructure to contain this problem and 3) the government of the Mainland does not, in general, concern itself about what goes on out there. We do not generate the tax revenue Roatan does and because the difficulty of reaching the island and the lack of funds for law enforcement, the Government of Honduras just does not want to go to the expense to assist the islanders.

In the first Article it states: [on Guanaja] limited infrastructure and services have served to be a deterrent to tourism. And, there it is in a nutshell. Tourism! No tax revenue, i.e., no help to the island. Guanaja had a good tourism business back in the 80's. It had two main dive resorts which were, for the most part, filled to capacity most of the year. What happened? Well, Hurricane Mitch was this island's downfall. It was such a devastating storm, sitting on the island for an unprecedented 3 days, that the rebuilding was too much for the islanders to bounce back from. Some people took out loans from the government and took in donations from other countries to rebuild their businesses but, in many cases, did not use the money for its intended purpose. The businesses did minimal repairs and never returned to their past glory. That was the beginning of the end. With hotels that were offering less than desirable service, tourism fell off. Of course the reporting that people should stay away from the island because of the devastation caused by the hurricane hung with the island long after repairs were made and life was returning to normal. Then we had the big to do with ex-President Mel Zelaya. This was the icing on the cake as foreign governments warned people to stay away from Honduras.

The island has little connection with the mainland and his ouster did not affect us one bit except for the news flashes and the scare tactics of various governments telling people to stay away. Business went on as usual here albeit with less tourists appearing on our shores.

Then, there is the fishing industry which has hit on very, very hard times. This along with tourism was the backbone of the economy and with fishing drying up and tourists no longer flocking to the island, it was a perfect chance for narcotraffickers to step in. And come they did.

Of course, the above cable is erroneous in many ways. First, the population of the island is not 6,000 people; it is more like 13,000 to 15,000 with approximately 5,000 living on the Cay of Bonacca. To state that 85% of the population uses drugs is, I believe, is a stretch for any populated area. We do have a problem of which there is no doubt and it is out of control. Why? Because nothing is really being done. The drug families here are just that, families and since most all islanders in one way or another are related, few will turn in their relatives!

The statement: El Heraldo newspaper report. Casual drug use can be observed openly in public, and even children as young as 8 years old are known to be regular drug users. I would like to know where El Heraldo is getting its reports as the only time a reporter from any mainland newspaper comes here is during a campaign run by a politician or if something newsworthy happens like the shutting down of the airport by protesters years ago. Few if any reporters ever come to report on our annual Conch Festival or Fishing Tournament. So, for people to observed using casual drugs openly in the public, I would ask who is reporting that? Not that it really makes any difference who reports it as, yes, we have individuals that use marijuana in the open but not on the main streets nor in the presence of any law enforcement. For the most part, one does not see people walking down the street or in the open puffing on a joint. It is not unlike other parts of the world where drugs are used in public places - no one does it "out in the open" but it does occur in certain establishments where adults congregate. Crack cocaine is used but I have never witnessed anyone using it in any public areas. And, crack cocaine is a terrible problem with our young people.

And, as throughout the world, young children may be using drugs here as they do in other cities of other countries. By in large, however, I do not believe that many of our young children use drugs. Of course, it depends upon what you classify as "young". If you are speaking of teenagers, yes, they use drugs here the same as they do in the U.S. and Europe.

Articles 3 and 4 are correct - it is a problem here and one that is more than difficult to deal with.

According to Article 5, I can report that here have been recent steps to do something about the problem on the island, but it is not necessarily to save the island from itself. It is simply to stop the disbursing of the drugs to the Cayman Island and the U.S. I am not fooled into thinking that anyone is doing this for the good of the people here. Money is being made by the individuals here that control the drugs and they do not care enough about their fellow Hondurans to warrant stopping the flow of drugs onto the island and thus stoppingthe cash coming into their pockets.

The number of nightly flights per month into the island to deliver drugs has decreased, but they still come. Last Friday evening, during a thunder and lightning storm, a plane came into the island. We all know when a plane is flying above the island late at night, and especially in adverse weather conditions, it can mean only one thing - a drug delivery. There is a new station built at the airport which is to house, from what I am told, drug agency personnel and/or military to stem the influx of drugs. Of course, then I would ask how they are going to deal with the corruption and payoffs which are most likely to occur? People bringing in the drugs, handling the drugs and dispersing the drugs surely don't want to lose their comfort money and know that corruption is King in Honduras, as in many underdeveloped countries!

The fact that locals are involved as hired help cannot be disputed - but it is the same on the mainland and nothing is being accomplished there to stop the flow of drugs, or, what little is done is not making a dent in the trafficking.

Drugs are a fact of life, a miserable one at that, but it happens the world over. For the most part our island is a wonderful place for divers and snorkelers to come and enjoy their sport. As in any large city anywhere in the world - you don't go into areas you are not familiar with, you don't deal in the purchase of drugs unless you want to take the chance on getting caught and or get into a situation that would be life-threatening. The resorts here are distanced from the drugs and safe places to enjoy one's vacation.

I wholeheartedly agree that drugs on the island, i.e., it being a jumping off point, are a problem and I would love to see the whole enterprise shut down. But, as in Europe and the U.S. where they have every means available to them, it is still a major problem.

Life on the island is always hard and in the past it was less difficult with no drugs. Now, with this problem and the misery and pain and lawlessness drugs bring, it is making life less than idealistic.....but where can you go in the world and not have similar problems? I am not excusing the island and the people involved in this dirty business which causes nothing but pain, but I am realistic enough to know it won't go away overnight. We need help for our young people, better educational programs to keep them away from this plight and assistance for those who are hooked.

My wish would be for drugs to be banished from the island, but then again, I want long-lasting good health, a boat without mechanical failures, an electric company that can deliver 24/7 and clean water!

Monday, August 29, 2011


The first form of entertainment we had on the island when we arrived in 1997 was a spectacular lightning show on the coast in July which we viewed from the front porch of the apartment we rented. It was better than watching fireworks!

With the advent of digital cameras my husband has been attempting to photograph lightning strikes and has had a few good photos in the past to show for his efforts. This past Friday and Saturday, however, proved to be an ideal theatre for his attempts. Both evenings we had electrical charged air with huge clouds and lots of lightning. Friday the clouds were quick thick and numerous so capturing strikes of lightning was limited. But Saturday! Well, that evening was great. Strikes could be seen at a pretty constant rate and since the cloud cover was smaller, he caught some good shots.

Reading about lightning further increases ones awareness of what is going on in the sky. There are so many different types of lightning and different situations create it. From thunderstorms to volcanoes, the sighting and photos of lightning has always been awe inspiring.

I hope you enjoy these photos.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pitfalls of island living!

Living on an island without any roads is a rare experience for most of the world. It is quiet here with a lack of pollution and noise that is associated with automobiles. There are no roads to mar the scenery; unmaintained and filled with potholes. Nor does one find debris associated with these non-existent roads. No huge billboards or disfiguring signs, no old tires, no broken down cars, no “tossed out the window garbage”, just nature and its beauty.

Then there is the sea, beautiful in its various magical colors of blue and green. Wonders to explore by diving or snorkeling and the ever relaxing day of fishing. Of course the sea has it dangers and no matter how hard man tries, the sea always wins!

A young couple recently came to Guanaja from Roatan via Canada this past week on their honeymoon for relaxation and snorkeling. Unfortunately for them we were being invaded by a jelly fish not common to these waters.

The box jelly fish, or sometimes known as the sea wasp, is usually restricted to the Indo-Pacific but had suddenly appeared on the West side of the island in shallow water during the calm period just before Tropical Cyclone Harvey hit. While they are mainly found in Australia and the Mediterran, they can appear in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and in the sub tropics. Prior to this incident, I had never heard any reports of this particular jelly fish in the waters off Guanaja. It has an extremely potent venom which is contained in its tentacles which contain nematocyst (a harpoon-shaped mechanism that injects venom into the victim). They are very fast moving (can move up to 4 knots), are transparent and prey does not realize it has been stung until some time after. Once a tentacle adheres to the skin, it pumps toxin causing a stinging sensation and agonizing pain. Vinegar is generally poured over the skin and then the tentacles are removed with the aid of a towel-covered hand or a glove as direct contact with the skin can release more toxin to anyone attempting to remove the tentacle.

We met the couple when we were flying back to the island from the States last week at the airport in La Ceiba. They had booked a room at Bo's Island House and were looking forward to a week of relaxing and snorkeling. They got a lot more than they bargained for. They went snorkeling on Friday, a calm day (which is what these jellyfish love) and enountered a large group of box-like jellies swiming very quickly through the water. They never felt the initial sting and swam around for a short while in the group of jelly fish trying to get away. That evening the agonizing pain began and the blistering. No one knew just what to do because they had not seen this type of jelly fish before. So, no vinegar was poured on the stings nor were the tentacles removed! The photos below were taken on Sunday and the blistering had gone down but they were still experiencing much pain. There were more stings than those shown in the photograph and I do not envy them when they have to put clothing over the area and buckle up in an airplane pressed back into the seat for their return flight! They are returning to Roatan on Tuesday for 8 more days and they hope that by then the injuries will be healing over so that there will be less discomfort on their long flight back to Canada!

Then, we had a tropical cyclone approach the area which threatened us with high winds, rain and rough seas. This one was named Harvey and we were ready. Not that much in the way of preparations must be done for a tropical depression/cyclone/storm. A few plants may be brought in to protect them and maybe some lose furniture moved out of the way. This storm was rather gentle in that some of the “Northers” we have in the winter are far more damaging. There was not a lot of wind, enough to blow leaves off the trees and break weak or old branches, but there was little rain. There was, however, a lot of surge action in the sea. It came ashore at our house about 1 a.m. Saturday morning and we could hear the waves crashing on the beach. Previously, on Thursday while shopping for groceries on the Cay, our clear skies turned dark and for over 2-3 hours it poured on the shoppers. We registered 3” of rain at our house while parts of the island had absolutely nothing! Some of the streets were flooded as can you can see in the photograph supplied by my friend, Cathy, below. The children took advantage of the rain, making the most of the flooded streets by running through the shin-deep water!

The week was topped off by the outage of electrical power supplied by Belco, the privately owned electric company here on the island. Power will be on for 4 hours a day (sometimes a little more) with no power for the rest of the time. From all reports, they are running out of fuel. This is something that happens quite often and, so, not unusual to hear. What is beyond my comprehension is a company supplying power through the means of fuel has run out. I don't know why stocks of fuel are not cataloged so that they are aware when they are running low or why fuel is not replenished in time to avoid this, but for some reason it happens on a regular basis. This time rumors are running rampant of the company enlisting the help of an individual to bring them fuel and gave him $1.5 million to buy it and he ran off with the money, or simply they were having trouble getting fuel delivered and the boat captain of a delivery boat wants a share of the fuel for his payment and the agreement not to pay any electric bills, or, the excuse that is given most of the time; people are not paying their bills and they cannot afford to replenish fuel at critical times. Although I was assured once by one of the members of the board of Belco that this is not the case and that anyone not paying their bill has their electricity cut off. Well, we know for a fact that in certain cases that does not happen, but the owners of Belco will never admit that. For the most part, they do have trouble collecting money for the power used. The rates on Guanaja are the highest in Honduras and it is no wonder that people are having a time paying their bills. But, if one wants electric power one must then accept the rates and pay for what they use. There is no clear cut answer to why the power is being turned off, it is a fact of life here and I can only say that I am very glad that I have solar and do not have to be inconvenienced by this outage.

Then we find out that this Monday through possibly Wednesday there will be no water to certain parts of the island due to the fact that the water company is cleaning out one of the dams. We were told later that school children will be used to clean the dams during their school days! While some people see nothing wrong with this and believe it will teach the children a love for their island (???), my argument is that these children get a scant education at best and to take them from school to use them as cheap labor is unconscionable. Besides, if they want children or volunteers to clean the dam, why can't the do it on a weekend? Well, then we get into the territory of the Seventh Day Adventist Church which is the leading church on the island and work is forbidden on Saturday. One person pointed out this would be the same as a "field trip" for educational reasons! Never in my life did I go on a "field trip" to do free labor for a profit making company! We went to museums, concerts, historical places, etc. all to learn about our country and the history of the world. But, again, we live in a country where education is not a high priority and the rights of children and/or women are low on the totem pole.

I say, use the labor force that is sitting in the jail to complete these tasks, not the children of the island! There are projects for beautification of the island that are periodically done and one sees children cleaning the beaches of trash. When this is on a school day, I see no redeeming value to missing classes. If they want to organize a beautification project, then it should be done on a weekend or after school. However, my voice is small and, since I am not a citizen of this country, I have no say in how they handle their "education" or clean-up/beautification projects.

Of course, every society has their own set of rules and customs - I just think it a shame to sacrifice education in the name of custom.

And, so, island living is not for everyone!